Most people think they have a pretty good idea of how to take shelter in a thunderstorm: stand under the nearest tent or tree. Unfortunately, that tree makes a pretty good air terminal to intercept a lightning strike and the tree’s roots you’re standing on make you a good conductor for the electrical charge to go through. The same goes with the tent. A good rule of thumb is that taking shelter under things is a bad idea whereas taking shelter inside of things – permanent structures – is a good idea.
Good Shelters During Thunderstorms
In the event of a thunderstorm you should get indoors as soon as possible. Your home, school, a restaurant, or a local store are all good places to hide out during a thunderstorm. While these buildings aren’t protected from a lightning strike without a lightning protection system, they can take the charge to the ground without transferring any of that charge to you. Should the building catch fire after a lightning strike, exit immediately.
If you are unable to get inside a solid, permanent structure during a thunderstorm, the next best place to go is inside your car. Your car will also transfer the energy to the ground and cause you little to no harm. Again, if something happens to the vehicle then exit immediately.
Bad Shelters During Thunderstorms
Essentially, a bad structure is anything we haven’t yet mentioned. Tents, enclosed or not, and trees make terrible protection during a thunderstorm. In fact, they’re like magnets. And those trunks and stakes could inadvertently get you electrocuted by the charge as it goes into the ground. This is why it is so important to seek proper shelter.
What to Do if There is no Permanent Structure
If you are in an environment where there is no permanent structure around, you should walk out into the middle of a field, preferably in a low spot like a valley, and crouch down. Do this in such a way that your hands do not touch the ground in order to have as little contact as possible with the ground. Bend down and hug your knees with your head facing downward. The idea is to get as low to the ground without touching it as possible. If you have a backpack or sleeping bag with you, it is best to sit or kneel on it rather than touching the ground with your feet.